SEND THREE AND FOURPENCE
Mrs Kinch in the girlfriend creche. She gave him a good poking with a rolled up copy of Vogue and told him that he better take it with him as he was clearly more interested in fashion than war. He took to his heels.
By the way Tootsie knows quite a bit about fashion and you should buy her bespoke hats: have a look at facebook.com/TootsieRoyaleMillineryAccessories (hats, you say? I will! Ed).
That chap wouldn’t play a game, no matter how ridiculous, where the figures were not dressed appropriately to his satisfaction. Now no-one has a right to expect people to play their game and I fully accept that. Also I can understand that some players can find particular aspects of a game break their immersion and enjoyment of that game, but I think we should recognise that this is a personal preference and not “realism” per se. In fact realism, at least in the sense in which the word is used in wargaming circles is a very slippery beast.
MAPPA MUNDI The best analogy I’ve been able to find for the way wargamers think about realism is the Jorge Luis Borges short story, On Exactitude in Science. In it a society becomes obsessed with making the perfect map:
“…In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.”
The point to observe here is that in trying to make the perfect map, the Empire made a map that was completely useless. There’s a moral here for wargamers. There is no such thing as realism in wargames, but a wargame can focus on specific areas and attempt to get those right. To paraphrase Frederick the Great: “He who seeks realism everywhere, will get realism no-where” and will be like the geographers in the Borges story who build a map that is perfectly accurate, but totally unusable.
You can try and realistically model every aspect of warfare in a game and you will almost certainly fail. The closest I’ve seen to anybody trying to tackle this outside of computer games is Bruce Quarrie’s Napoleon’s Campaigns in Miniature. This particular ruleset is a small hardback book, but it is stuffed with absolutely tons of stuff. I greatly enjoyed reading it as a youngster, but I never actually played a game of it. I managed
ABOVE Prussian moving in on French positions. In garden games, while they involve plenty of silliness (firing nerf rockets being one example) can be quite realistic in that they avoid the traffic jam that can occur on a table. It's much easier to replicate realistic formations with proper spacing.
BELOW Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature by Bruce Quarrie - there is a huge amount of information crammed into this slim volume, but the amount of detail included in the name of realism seems to me to make the book unplayable as a game.
games of Warhammer and various Donald Featherstone rules, but even at my most crazed, I never considered tackling Bruce Quarrie. The book includes rules for running your Napoleonic countries budget (to the pounds, shillings and pence!), different levels of attrition dependent on medical care, individual stats for the main generals of each side and so on. It’s a tremendous piece of work and certainly learned a lot about the period from reading it, but it failed as a game. So if you have ever finished a game of Napoleon’s Campaigns in Miniature, I would love to hear from you.
Even at the level Napoleon’s Campaigns in Miniature operated at it didn’t address real campaign issues like the degradation of the horse flesh in Napoleon’s army throughout the latter years of his campaigns or the effect of battlefield smoke on musketry effectiveness. That’s not a criticism of the book per se, but an observation that – like a man staring at a fractal – you can always find additional complexity if you look for it. (Phoenix Command rules had, as I recall, three different versions of the FN rifle, each with tiny variations: as you say, ‘additional complexity’ and all to no point whatsoever... Ed.)
8 Miniature Wargames September 2020